Many of the property problems that you read about that occur in Spain derive from incompetent conveyancing undertaken for buyers, who have been 'allowed' by their lawyer to purchase a defective property. The absolute 'anchor' to any safe property purchase is your conveyancing lawyer, someone you employ specifically to investigate your proposed property to find out whether any defects or liabilities exist.
Well, wherever possible, try to choose a Spanish conveyancing lawyer who is recommended to you by several different people. However, do not stop there - because you need to check that your intended lawyer, recommended or otherwise, is an experienced, specialist conveyancing lawyer (as opposed to a litigation, corporate, probate etc. lawyer). Furthermore, make sure that your lawyer can speak your language fluently and is completely independent of the seller, your estate agent or any developer. Finally, check that he has high value public liability insurance cover, as some Spanish lawyers have a very low cover.Once you have chosen your lawyer then you must 'supervise' him to ensure that he does his work properly. There are, obviously, limits to this but there are some vitally important questions that you must ensure are answered unambiguously and in writing, before you put down any deposit. I say 'in writing' because few things concentrate the mind of a lawyer more than having to answer queries (or place advice) in writing. This is something some Spanish lawyers studiously avoid, not least because advice in writing provides an injured party with an invaluable paper trail of suable evidence, something every lawyer, however corrupt or incompetent, knows. So, always ask your conveyancing lawyer for written answers to the following questions:
1. Is my intended property designated as Urbano or Rustico (if Rustico, watch out for legality problems, lack of services and a potential, expensive infrastructure project)?
2. If my property is Urbano is it fully urbanised (if not, then paying for a potentially expensive infrastructure project is almost inevitable)?
3. Does the property have a Licencia de Primera o Segunda Ocupación (avoid buying it, unless it has!)?
4. Is the size of the plot the same as the Cadastral office (national land office) as on the Escritura (Deeds)?
5. Are the property boundaries shown on the Cadastral the same as for those shown by the existing walls/fences around the property?
6. Has there been any alteration to the property not shown on the Cadastral (new buildings, extensions, a reformed under build etc.)?
7. Does the property exactly match the description of it in the Land Registry (the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, reception rooms, garage, outbuildings etc.)?
8. Is the swimming pool registered at the Land Registry, as well as properly licensed?
9. What exactly does the Plan Urbanistica state about any proposals that may affect your property and the land around it (new roads, green areas etc.)?
10. Are there any encumbrances on the property (mortgages etc)?
In reality, you can buy safely in Spain. Most people living here have sound properties and have bought wisely but to do so you must, ensure that your conveyancing lawyer is excellent and does his work extremely well. An experienced buyer never compromises knows how to choose and manage a lawyer and never accepts shortcuts or tries to hurry any legal investigations by his lawyer. Do the same and you will ensure that the home you buy in Spain is safe and sound and one that will provide you with a delightful and worry-free new life...Nick Snelling is the author of five books including 'How to Buy Spanish property and Move to Spain - Safely!' and runs the information site Culture Spain